Taxpayer money literally going to waste

By Debra LoGuercio

©Copyright 2003, Debra LoGuercio, all rights reserved

Meanwhile, while the rest of us sit and wonder how we'll scrape up the money to pay our tripled car registrations that supposedly will help wipe away California's $38 billion deficit...

Our elected officials publicly fret over the state's dollars and spray nickels and dimes in every direction when we aren't looking. It's under the heading of "Because We Can, That's Why."

In the June 2 San Francisco Chronicle, we find a nifty little story regarding efforts to "wean lawmakers from SUVs." To entice lawmakers to give up their luxury gas-guzzlers, (which nearly half of both senators and Assembly members drive) the Assembly is offering "an extra $10,000 to spend on office expenses" for lawmakers who turn in their SUVs for a fuel-efficient hybrid.

How very generous of the Assembly to offer $10,000 to anyone and everyone who takes them up on their offer. But it's easy to be generous with someone else's money. Like yours and mine. And criminey sakes, an EXTRA $10,000? Just how luxurious must one's office furniture be to serve the public? Even using just the "extra" figure, you could outfit an office quite nicely for one-fourth that price. But why would you want to when someone else is paying for it.

Further into the story, we learn that "lawmakers can lease a car at taxpayer expense up to $400 a month for a three-year lease or $350 for a four-year lease." There are 40 senators in California and 80 Assembly members. Do the math. Nice little chunk of change, isn't it.

True, in the larger picture of our state's budget crisis, a half-million and change doesn't amount to much. But a half-million here, a half-million there and it adds up.

Somebody please explain to me why we're paying for our elected officials' vehicles AT ALL, SUV or otherwise. Their salaries are easily triple mine, yet I manage to pay for my own car. Yes, I have to work two jobs to do so. Yes, it's hard. Yes, there are other things I'd rather spend my money on. And yes, when I'm in a slightly less snarky mood than I am at the moment, I'm thankful to be employed and able to make a car payment at all. I don't mind working for a living and paying my own bills. Our so-called public servants should do no less.

Does it occur to anyone else that the "servants" are doing better than the "masters"? How did we get down this rabbit hole, Alice?

Here's another example of our nickels and dimes rolling from every crack at the State Capitol. We discover in the June 16 Chronicle that CalTrans is calling in hazardous materials teams to pick up discarded bottles of urine along the highways. Why? Because CalTrans has designated human urine as a biohazard.

Nevermind that day care workers, nurses and janitors come in contact with this "biohazard" on a daily basis and live to tell. Must be the empty Coke bottle. Apparently urine reacts with recycled plastic and becomes as toxic as discarded plutonium rods.

The average cost of calling in Haz-Mat to pick up a bottle of pee? A staggering $2,500. And that's on a good day. It could be as much as $8,000 depending on "the location and amount of urine to be cleaned up."

Hey, guys, it's CalTrans. By default, the "location" is on the roadside. It's not like they're helicoptering into Desolation Valley to do the clean-up. And with HazMat teams all over the state, the drive can't be all that far. Furthermore, how much "amount" can we possibly be dealing with? The human bladder only holds so much. We're not talking oil drums, here.

But, you offer hopefully, those pricey pee pickups couldn't amount to that much. How many could there be? According to the article, on one recent busy day, the HazMat crew picked up 300 bottles of urine in a single run. CalTrans spokesperson Dennis Trujillo claims it's not uncommon to find dozens of bottles on a stretch of road, particularly along major trucking corridors, such as Interstate 5, and isolated areas with few rest stops, such as in the Sierras.

So put in a rest stop or two, you melonheads.

But let's entertain the lunacy for a moment. If bottled urine truly is a biohazard and must be treated as such, isn't it illegal to discard biohazards along the roadways? A felony, most likely? Don't we arrest people for committing felonies and toss them in the slammer?

Ah, but we can't imprison people for peeing in bottles, can we. That would be utterly ridiculous. Almost as ridiculous as Trujillo's justification for calling in the HazMat teams: "Our guys are trained to maintain roads. When it comes to biomedical waste, we bring in experts trained to deal with it."

Let me get this straight. CalTrans workers can handle heavy machinery just fine, but they're incapable of being trained to don latex gloves and empty plastic bottles.

Pardon me while I bang my head on my significantly less than $10,000 desk.

Get ready to groan, because I can't stop myself from typing it: Our elected officials are pissing our money away.

And that really pisses me off.